Reflections from the Canada Council for the Arts on the Research on the Value of Public Funding for Indigenous Arts and Cultures
A response from Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, and Odile Joannette, Director of the Creating, Knowing, and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples Program
As two leaders at the Canada Council for the Arts—one Indigenous and one non-Indigenous—this research inspires and motivates us in our work. Its methodology offers important insights into how Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews can come together to create a better shared future. It also presents crucial opportunities to improve public support for the arts and cultures of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
The research aligns with the Council’s ongoing commitment to respect and uphold the cultural sovereignty and self-determination of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. It also offers essential information for our work to create a more just, equitable, and decolonized future for the arts—one of the aims of the Council’s current strategic plan and a project for the wider arts sector. We believe these are necessary conditions for the arts and cultures to truly flourish on this land.
The Council collaborated with Archipel Research and Consulting Inc., an Indigenous-owned and women-led firm, to undertake this work. An Indigenous advisory circle guided their work, and Archipel engaged Indigenous community members throughout Canada. We are grateful to all those who contributed their time and knowledge to this project.
What we’ve learned from the research
The Research on the Value of Public Funding for Indigenous Arts and Cultures is rich with information for the Council and the wider arts sector. Notably, Part 5 of the report, “A Path Forward,” proposes several opportunities to improve the value of public funding for Indigenous arts and cultures that deserve the close attention of the Council and arts funders across the country.
Some of these opportunities are already in place at the Council through the Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples program. This program is by and for Indigenous peoples, and it includes a non-disciplinary approach that supports Indigenous arts and cultures in a holistic way. Through the Creating, Knowing, and Sharing program, as well its other granting programs, the Council supports Indigenous artists, cultural carriers, groups, and organizations working to revitalize and reclaim Indigenous languages—an area where the report highlights opportunities for the Council and other funders. While the Council supports Indigenous languages within its programs, we recognize that we need to work with Indigenous communities to grow our support in this area.
Other opportunities highlighted in the report are under development at the Council, including those related to the North. The Council is building relationships and collaborating in the North to respond to the realities of the region, including through partnerships with the Inuit Art Foundation for the co-delivery of a pilot funding project and with the Government of Yukon for the support of emerging Indigenous artists and cultural carriers. Read more about the Council’s current work to support arts and culture in the North.
Some opportunities detailed in the report will require sustained efforts over time. The Council will continue to review and improve its application processes so that programs are indigenized and more accessible. It will also make its funding more widely known to Indigenous communities through outreach activities. Broadly speaking, it will evolve its work in response to new information, demographic shifts, and ongoing dialogue with Indigenous artists and communities.
The journey ahead for the Council will take time and focused work. Even more Indigenous perspectives at the Council are needed to make meaningful changes grounded in the cultural sovereignty and self-determination of Indigenous peoples.
The next steps for the Council
While the Research on the Value of Public Funding for Indigenous Arts and Culture is integral to the Council, its findings are important for arts funders more broadly. As such, the Council will share the report widely, particularly with its arts funding partners and with policy and research communities—across Canada and around the world.
This will foster a shared understanding and help us work together, in new ways and in keeping with what we’ve heard from this research. We cannot do this work alone; this must be a collaborative effort to better respond to the artistic and cultural life of Indigenous peoples.
We will also continue to report on our support for Indigenous arts and cultures on our website, including our support that pertains to the priorities we set in our 2021-26 strategic plan.
This research marks an important milestone. It gives us a new tool to help advance the Indigenous-led decolonization of the arts and culture sector and Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.
With this report, we are empowered to move forward with a deeper understanding of what is possible in our shared vision and a better understanding of what must be done to get there.
Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts
Director, Creating, Knowing, and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples Program